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Could Thanksgiving Become A Service Learning Holiday?

November 15, 2012

Each Thanksgiving, I enjoy the same scene—family, football, and tons of food. It's amazing—something I look forward to each year (like my mom's deviled eggs), but I can't help but thinking there's something missing that would make Thanksgiving seriously the best holiday of the bunch. Similar to the way that I've always thought Independence Day could benefit from more use of water guns (Songkran anyone?), I think that Thanksgiving would operate amazingly as a service learning holiday.

It's been a long time since I bought my parents’ story about the Pilgrims and the Indians. However, there is something to be said about the spirit of community and charity that we’re taught to associate with Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving - Volunteer Global

However, these lessons of Thanksgiving would mean much more, like most lessons, if they were accompanied by action.

How to Volunteer on Thanksgiving:

There are many ways to get involved with your community on Thanksgiving that still leave plenty of time for family and delicious pecan pies!

Using part of your Thanksgiving to serve others isn't just a way to give back, but it’s also a way to teach the younger members of your family just how much they have to be thankful for. It's easy to forget, when struggling with day-to-day demands just how hard other people have it. Volunteering is also easy to turn into a family-friendly activity, as there are many simple ways to make the Thanksgiving holiday a better memory for those in need in your community.

Serve Food at a Local Shelter

Serving food at a local shelter is probably the most intuitive way to incorporate service learning into your family's Thanksgiving tradition. Find a shelter in your neighborhood that uses volunteer efforts to keep their doors open. Many of these shelters will be glad to give their usual volunteers a break on Thanksgiving and let you and your family step in to serve.

Be aware that these commitments should be set up weeks in advance and make take some simple food safety training that can be arranged beforehand. Hopefully, serving food at your local shelter will become a family tradition as strong as the rest—and open the doors for a relationship with those in your community who aren't as fortunate.

Help Gather Food at Local Food PantriesFood Pantry - Volunteer Global

It's no problem if you aren't able to donate your time on Thanksgiving Day itself. We totally understand that for many people, this is the one day each year they get to spend totally and blissfully with their families. However, there are plenty of related activities on the days leading up to and after Thanksgiving that you and your family can help out with.

For example, join in with a local community center or religious organization to gather food and other needed goods for families who find the holidays a difficult time to cope. Do your part to make sure that everyone gets a juicy turkey this Thanksgiving—contact your local organizations to find if any donation gatherings are operating in your area!

Visit Your Local Nursing Home

Not everyone gets to spend Thanksgiving with their families; some people, unfortunately, must spend it far away from their loved ones. So, do your best to share some of your holiday with them. Visit your neighborhood nursing home, or even consider adopting a grandparent. Thanksgiving is about community—and the chance to participate in this to a fuller extent could be nothing but good.

Photos courtesy of Same Beebe, Ecotrust, and ilovebutter, Creative Commons.